Michael Arato and Preethi Chidambaram give samples of CafeButter at the Columbus Coffee Festival. Credit: Courtesy of Michael Arato

Routine morning cups of joe and mid-afternoon caffeine pick-me-ups can soon be supplemented with CafeButter — spreadable coffee created by Michael Arato, a fourth-year in food science.

Arato said he invented the caffeinated spread with a similar consistency to Nutella when he was pondering a void in savory breakfast spreads. Australia has Vegemite and Marmite, but he couldn’t think of an American equivalent. He said his first thought was to go with a spicy spread to wake people up, but decided that caffeine could do that job instead.  

It all began with a can of peanuts and Folgers coffee. The initial experimentation with the product went poorly, Arato said. After a few botched batches, he reverse-engineered other popular spreads, added additional ingredients and moved to more premium coffee from local brewer Thunderkiss Coffee.

The spread can be used just like peanut butter or any other spread, Arato said; in smoothies, for dessert, spread onto bread, or just by the spoonful. He plans to release the product online in 2017, with hopes of having it used in bakeries and cafes and available for purchase in grocery stores in the future. In a two-tablespoon serving, CafeButter has about 80 percent of the caffeine content in a cup of coffee. In the future, Arato said he hopes to produce a decaffeinated version.

“It’s a great blend of coffee and food. It is kind of an opportunity to eat your coffee, especially for people who have more than one cup in a day,” Arato said. “…and if you just really have a fix for coffee flavor, it’s a great way to enjoy it in a new way.”

CafeButter social media chair and a third-year in marketing, Nick Prayner, agrees.  

“I’m really not a huge coffee drinker, but I like coffee-flavored things,” Prayner said. “It’s very aromatic. So for people who like the smell of coffee, I tell them it tastes exactly like coffee smells.”

As a food science student, Arato said he knew product development was in his future. He quickly realized many entry-level jobs are not as fast-paced as he hoped, and said CafeButter gives him much more creative control.

Once Arato began developing the product, he moved out of his own kitchen and into the basement of the Parker Food Science and Technology building on campus, which houses a pilot plant for local entrepreneurs. Students can rent out space and use the school’s equipment to create their products.

“I think a lot of the excitement is in how new it is. I haven’t seen anything else in the market like it,” Arato said. “I’m excited to see where it goes; it’s already evolved a lot in the year I’ve been working on it.”